China College Entrnce Examination Composition

Foreigners Write Chinese National Matriculation Test Composition
GaoKao Essay Competition
It's definitely NOT the most wonderful time of the year for a section of China's population. Years of backbreaking hard labor, carrying around heavy weights and not being allowed to have free time and recreation have come to an end. Has there been a mass Prison Break? Possibly, although the escapees won't be armed and dangerous. But before release, the thousands of senior high school students who this week sat the three-day gaokao (National College Entrance Examination), first had to get over the hurdle of the essay, which could count for 40 percent of the final grade (a potential 60 marks out of 150). So going back to school are three of our writers, trying out some of this year's questions against China's best and brightest. How did they do? We'll be the judge of that.
Return To Childhood
(JiangXi Question)

Illustration: Peter C. Espina

By Peter Saint

As I sit here contemplating an answer to this question that will help determine my entire future, I am full of a murderous rage. I think of the years of rote learning and drills I suffered from my youngest years, all focused on getting into Tsinghua or Peking University. And it all comes down to this, writing on the theme of return to the very childhood that this test robbed me of.

What kind of marking scheme will you use to grade this paper? Will it take into account the irony, the sarcasm, or the anger of the theme I have chosen for this answer? Will I get sympathy points to make up for the losses I have endured? Or will get punished for coming up with a negative answer, an answer that implicitly criticizes both you and the system you are part of?

Were I to deploy complex grammatical structures and flaunt my command of sophisticated words, writing a sophisticated Dickensian sentence as verbosely as possible, mimicking the scholarly prose of classical Chinese rather than short direct sentence of modern English stylists, would my opportunity to join the soaring heights of the elites at China's top institutions rise?

Does your rubric break my answer down into categories such as complexity of vocabulary, syntax, use of English idioms and set phrases, positive attitude, fealty to parents and love of nation?

If I were to emulate James Joyce and devolve the level of my prose into smaller, simpler sentences with easy words, would you even understand what I was doing?

Because as I write this answer and think back, I remember being jealous of my classmates. I remember attending cram schools after class and hoping the cute girl beside me would get into Tsinghua with me so we could study together in the library and maybe hold hands before we went back to our separate dorms.

Whenever I encountered difficulties with my studies and wanted to retreat, my mind suddenly flashes to images of my father's childhood, compared to him my difficulty is nothing. Without enduring the storm, how can I see the rainbow? Without being chilled to the bone, how can I smell the plum flowers?

I miss my teacher, a candle who burned herself to light others' way. She worked so hard for us she ignored her own health, and died of cancer.

I want to play more computer games. I hate studying and I don't want to go to university anyways. I want to be a basketball player. Why do I have to learn English? We live in China. Can't I just speak Chinese? I'm tired but Daddy won't let me go to bed until I finish my homework.

My hobby is sleeping, because I don't get to sleep enough. My best friend looks like a pigu (butt). Mommy, look how hard I studied.

The teacher gave me three stars today, but Xiao Wang got five. I hate him.

Aren't I good? I did homework all night.

40/60 What a whiner.


Look Up To The Starry Skies But Stay Down To Earth

(BeiJing Question)

By Lou Sherbert 

I'm no Li Bai, but when it comes to poetry I know what I like, and that's what I know. Some things are inalienably true: Water is wet, grass is green (kind of), dogs bark and houses prices rise.

The line yang wang xing kong ("look up at the starry sky") is one of my favorites. Why? Because it's true. Look at the sky. What do you see? That's right. Stars.

It's very important we all gaze at the skies and don't look around us. Look! Big apartment, high-earning job, KTV booked round the clock, two cars with different license plates and, of course, a hot wife (everyone wants a hot wife. Even my girlfriend, just for the marvelous face it gives).

If we all do this, we drive up national productivity and everybody's happy, except the peasants. But it's crucial to remember the other half. Not the peasants. The earth. Reach for the Sky was a famous book by a wheelchair-bound pilot written after World War II. Today, we are asked to do a far more important thing: To reach for the ground.

Or, in another way, jiao ta shi di (roughly translated: get real). Keep your feet firmly on dry land. Life is likely going to be living in a dormitory, working for the man and looking at hot wives on the Internet.

It was, I believe, Oscar Wilde, or possibly George Bernard Shaw (or maybe even Noel Coward - it definitely wasn't Dorothy Parker) who said: "We are all of us in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars."

What exactly did he mean? And how can I use this to finagle a passing grade and ensure a high-flying career at a top 500 company, like Foxconn (they've had some openings recently), or failing that, a kindergarten security guard post? The answer is: I don't know. But I've just had a text to say someone will be emailing me the answers soon.

50/60 Marks deducted for not actually being able to see stars in Beijing.



The World I Live In

(TianJin Question)

By Peter Borrows

The world I live in is a world populated with people who say they are nothing like me, people who usually say I could not possibly fathom who they are or where they come from when I try, in earnest, to listen, hear and understand their worldview.

I live in a world where expressing exactly what you're thinking or feeling can be a liability, where certain words are so "sensitively" pregnant with unintended meanings that most chose to police themselves even when no one's looking, or when no one would even care.

On a tangentially related note, I live in a world where, out of a more-than 2,000-word article I once wrote about a World War II museum, the only word expurgated was "veracity." As a result, I learned the fanciful power of preterition when writing in a world that favors "mellifluous" thinking. I also learned to trust who reads what you write.

I live in world awash in contradiction. I live in a world that is not awash in contradiction. I live in a world where ignorance isn't exactly bliss, it's just kind of what ends up happening.

I live in a world wholly owned by those who tend to consider people like me "well-fed," a sometimes "foreign" concept to those pointing fingers with nothing better to do than to make trouble. But at the end of the day, even though I live in a world where I may not belong, it is at least a place that has gradually learned to welcome people like me, which never fails to give me pause.

The world I live in is the same world you live in, even though it may not exactly sometimes seem that way.

45/60 Too contradictory. 





No comments: